Philadelphia Eagles News

Offense Focus: Security, Red Zone TDs

This isn't about huddles, which the Eagles will now have on a regular basis. It isn't about tempo, the hallmark of the team's offense the previous three seasons. What the Doug Pederson offense is about is ball control, minimal giveaways and touchdowns in the red zone.

There is going to an emphasis on the weekly game plan as the Eagles look to create and then take advantage of personnel matchups. Receivers will go in motion to help with an easy release off of the line of scrimmage. Personnel groupings will change from play to play. Backs will move out of the formation and line up in a variety of spots.

In other words, it's going to look a lot like the offense looked in the Andy Reid era when the Eagles kept their turnovers down and generally ranked among the league's best in drive efficiency without, for most of those seasons, top-tier individual talent up and down the lineup.

In the three seasons when Pederson was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City, the Chiefs followed the script: the Chiefs led the NFL in rushing touchdowns, committed the third-fewest turnovers in the NFL and had the third-highest yards-per-carry average running the football.

The personnel here is similar to what Pederson worked with in Kansas City: The Eagles have high expectations for an offensive line that received a lot of attention in the offseason. The quarterback (Sam Bradford) is a veteran with a history of good ball security. There isn't a workhorse kind of running back here, but remember that Kansas City won 11 straight games last year with Jamaal Charles sidelined. Darren Sproles is an X-factor out of the backfield (think Brian Westbrook) and the Eagles have a deep and talented group at tight end. The wide receiver room is young and it no doubt has some questions about consistency, but there is promise with all of that youth.

Most of the players on the roster now in this offense played last year when the offense staggered and stuttered and simply did not play well for most of the season. A combination of too many turnovers and penalties and a poor performance in the red zone doomed the Eagles. After a sizzling 2013 season when Chip Kelly's tempo and play calling took the league by storm, the Eagles' offense regressed.

We all saw it. The meltdown in the first half of the 2015 opener in Atlanta was closer to the truth of this offense than was the second-half blitz that nearly produced an Eagles victory. There were long periods -- sometimes, entire halves -- during which the Eagles' offense was stuck in mud. 

And when the Eagles got things going, they killed drives with penalties and giveaways. A year after leading the NFL with 36 turnovers, the Eagles had 31 in 2015 -- only two teams had more. The Eagles committed 55 offensive penalties last season, including seven in that opening loss in Atlanta and another seven in the Week 16 final-knockout loss to Washington at Lincoln Financial Field. Their most disciplined game? Week 17 against New York in the win over the Giants.

It's going to be really interesting to see how the Eagles use their personnel this year. If the spring open-to-the-media practices were any indication, the Eagles will shuffle players in and out liberally. They will change formations and put receivers in motion and provide a lot of different looks and options for defenses to consider.

"There is a lot this offense can do," tight end Brent Celek said. "You get a feel for that right away. It's very similar to what we ran with Coach Reid, but there are some differences. It's going to change from week to week. You've got to be versatile here. We have a lot of players who we can go to when we get the right matchups."

The red zone is another critical area to improve. The Eagles ranked 23rd in the NFL in touchdown efficiency in the red zone in 2014 and 15th in 2015, and that's just not good enough. Bradford and Mark Sanchez compiled an efficiency rating of 63.8 in 2015, above only the numbers put together by the St. Louis quarterbacks. Bradford threw four interceptions in the red zone.

You can't win that way, as the Eagles learned on their way to a 7-9 campaign.

So the Eagles have turned the page and they've been fed the entire playbook, which could be expanded on a weekly basis during the season. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich has added input to the X's and O's, so Pederson's version of the West Coast offense isn't a copycat version of the one Reid has in place in Kansas City and the one that Big Red used with so much success in Philadelphia.

It's going to come down to a variety of things, of course. The in-game strategy and playcalling is important. Execution is vital. Talent level, certainly, matters.

But as far as tangible measurements, look at giveaways and efficiency in the red zone as yardsticks for offensive success. Flash doesn't matter. Dash is a thing of the past, mostly. What matters for this offense is playing smart, physical football and being efficient at all times.

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